In a recent health screening I had participated in, I witnessed quite many from those who turned out had significantly higher blood sugar levels than normal. Majority of them weren’t aware about it and of those who knew, chose to ignore to take their prescribed medication regularly.
Unfortunately, one of the patients who stopped taking her diabetes medication for a while had started developing ulcers on her leg and foot. This would eventually lead to the need for a leg amputation if she were still not willing to continue taking her diabetes medication.
Burden of the disease
One of the most common non-communicable diseases in the world and in Tanzania is diabetes. Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders characterised by high levels of sugar in the blood for a long period.
If left untreated, diabetes can cause severe complications in the long term including heart disease, leg ulcers and amputation, blindness, stroke, kidney disease and even death.
Diabetes.co.uk reveals that 46 per cent of patients suffering from diabetes are undiagnosed. Being unaware of this condition for a long time can lead to serious complications as discussed earlier and will eventually lead to an early death.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also reports that the prevalence of diabetes has been rising more rapidly in low and middle-income countries.
It also states that the number of diabetic patients has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. In 2015, around 1.6 million people lost their lives because of this condition.
Understanding the types
Diabetes is divided into two types. Type 1 is due to the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin while Type 2 is due to the failure of body cells to correctly respond to insulin.
Insulin is a hormone which maintains a normal sugar level in the blood.
Type 1 usually occurs in children and makes up around 10 per cent of diabetes cases while Type 2 mostly occurs in adults and comprises of approximately 90 per cent of diabetes cases. In terms of physical stature, Type 1 diabetes can occur in normal or thin individuals with healthy body weight while Type 2 often occurs in obese individuals.
How can one know he/she is a diabetic?
Diabetes can be identified by various signs, which include increased urination, increased hunger, weight loss and increased thirst. Other signs include fatigue, blurred eyesight, itchy skin, rashes and headache. Sadly, many people find out they are suffering from the condition when visiting the hospital for a routine check-up or undergoing tests for an unrelated disorder.
Here are the causes
The cause for type 1 diabetes is currently not known but genetic factors are partly implicated in its development. In people with a family history of diabetes, certain environmental factors such as infections or diet might trigger the development of diabetes but we are not completely sure of the causes.
On the other hand, we can confidently say that type 2 diabetes is mainly caused by lifestyle choices and inheritance. Obesity, stress, unhealthy diet, high cholesterol levels as well as an inactive lifestyle are major contributors to the development of type 2 diabetes. Dietary factors like excess sugar consumption and also consumption of a lot of white rice may increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Prevent it now
Currently, there is no known cure for diabetes and hence, it is essential to try to prevent development of the condition while you can. Several general measures exist which can be implemented in order to avoid developing diabetes. These include:
• Maintaining healthy body weight
• Engaging in regular exercise
• Limiting intake of beverages with excess sugar
• Smoking has also been linked to development of diabetes and hence, quitting it would be advisable if you’re trying to protect yourself from developing diabetes.
For people who already have the disease, certain medication exist which can manage your condition and keep your sugar levels in check. These medication must however be prescribed by a qualified medical professional.
The author is a medical student at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University